Together review – emotive drama about social care for the elderly | Film

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One could argue that with this fictional account (based, per the opening titles, “on too many true stories”) of an elderly couple who are forcibly separated from each other by meddling do-gooders is an example of that very thinly populated genre, the sentimental black comedy. Populated by broadly drawn characters whose personalities are subservient to their function to the plot, the whole kit and kaboodle emits a kind of rustic, chortling didacticism, like a cinematic Hogarth series set in the era of NHS bureaucracy and contemporary social work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although some viewers might harbour suspicions that, in terms of political sympathies, the film-makers’ intended audience may be less inclined to read the Guardian than the Daily Mail.

Philip (perpetual supporting actor Peter Bowles) and Rosemary Twain (national treasure-candidate Sylvia Syms), a pair of chirpy, Cockney-accented suburbanites, have been married for 60 years. In that time, they’ve weathered assorted misfortunes, including losing one of their children to childhood illness and seeing their only remaining child, Neville (Steve Steen), go off the rails and end up in jail. But they’ve stuck it out and have just celebrated their anniversary when Rosemary slips and breaks a leg and has to go into hospital.

Social workers assigned to her case deem Philip best off in a nursing home while Rosemary is in hospital recovering, but it emerges they have other motives and Philip doesn’t read the fine print on the contracts the eerily chirpy administrator (Carla Mendonca) has him sign. A decades old charge against Philip results in his being forced to stay at least 50 yards away from his wife, even though they long to be together again.

Writer-director Paul Duddridge heaps on the rotten luck with a certain energetic glee, but too often the performances feel under-directed. The result is a tone that veers all over the shop, although Emma Richardson’s always smiling home no-help-at-all is a comic treat. But it’s hard to get a steer on how to read the film’s intentions, especially when it zigzags between ruthless, dryly rendered satire and absurdly unconvincing courtroom scenes backed by soppy music. Some may feel the narrative is particularly hard on social workers, depicting them as officious, hard-hearted professionals who care more about rules than people. Also, this set of characters happen to include the only people of colour in the film. That may be an accident of casting, but it’s details like this that draw extra scrutiny, especially when dealing with such an emotive and contentious subject.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Together review – emotive drama about social care for the elderly | Film

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